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The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Day 905: August 10, 2016

Publication: Ukraine Liveblogs
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The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
CIT Identifies FSB Detainee as Former ATO Soldier Panov Apprehended in Alleged Crimean Border Clash

The Russian non-governmental Conflict Intelligence Team has found a picture of former ATO soldier Yevgeny Panov on Facebook posted last year by volunteer Lidiyia Epikhina which appears to match the photo of the suspected named Panov issued by the FSB.

Panov is third from the left.
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The FSB said in a statement that Panov was arrested on the night of August 6-7. As we reported, his friends and local media say he has been missing for the last 3 days.

Today Vesti, a program of Russian state TV channel Rossiya 24, published a video and screenshots released by the FSB in occupied Crimea showing masked FSB agents taking away Panov. His face appears to show cuts and bruises. His arms also appear to have a number of cuts and scratches.

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The screen shots also show improvised explosive devices.

CIT also analyzed the FSB statement that Panov was arrested on the night of August 6-7. As we reported, his friends and local media say he has been missing for the last 3 days, which could account for the detention by the FSB on August 6-7.

CIT points out that the FSB mentioned two attacks at the Artyomsk crossing of the Crimean border. The first, on the night of August 6-7 appears to be corroborated because witnesses reported on social media and in local press about hearing gunfire in that area as they waited in a line to cross. Ukrainian border guards even told them to get back in their cars and turn off any lights.

But there are no such social media reports for the night of August 7-8, putting into question whether the second clash, in which Ukrainian forces were said to be involved, even occurred -- or whether either of them occurred as claimed.

CIT also points out that the Internet was shut off from August 8-9 in Armyansk and Krasnoperekopsk, which may account for the lack of reports. Even so, on August 10, when the Internet was turned back on, there were no local reports of the incident that supposedly took place.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick 

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Two Children Wounded in Fighting In Maryinka
Two children have been wounded in fighting between Russian-backed forces and the Ukrainian army in Maryinka, Donbass.ua has reported.

Translation: Maryinka under fire, children wounded.

Maryinka [Mar'inka], a town about 30 kilometers to the southwest of Donetsk, is held by Ukrainian forces and is frequently under attack by Russian-backed militants. 

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Children ages 8 and 13 were wounded from shrapnel when a shell directly hit their home. They were taken to the hospital in Kurakhovo.

Militants opened fired about 17:00, and Lenina Street fell under fire, including the home where the children were playing in a room.

Police have come to the scene and have reported that three other residences in Maryinka were struck by shells and damaged, but there were no other reports of injuries.

Two hours ago,  the boom of artillery was still heard in Maryinka and reported on social media:

Translation: VK #Krasnogorovka "20:20 booms heard" #Maryinka "20:34 - without change. Booming, bullets are flying."

But now it appears to be quiet. 

Translation: For now, there is total silence #Maryinka 22:53.

Last week as we reported, separatist forces attempted to take Maryinka but were repelled by the Ukrainian army.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Seven Arrested in Connection with Crimean Border Incident; One is Missing Ukrainian ATO Soldier Panov
Novaya Gazeta reports that seven people alleged to have taken part on the border incursion in Crimea have been arrested, according to RIA Novosti.

"Seven people have been detained, including the coordinators from Crimea -- the local agents' network," a source told Interfax -- which says only 3 people were detained.

RIA Novosti said that the "agents' network" related to the alleged border incursion was "liquidated." 

Reports of the group said to be at large that circulated before the FSB announcement today variously stated four or five armed men in camouflage.

Interfax said the three people detained, headed by the Ukrainian citizen Yevgeny Panov, were laying explosives and anti-tank mines.

All of those detained are being held in Russian-occupied Crimea, and have not yet been charged. They are still being interrogated. 

Meanwhile, Open Russia reports, citing the Ukrainian news site Vesti, that Panov really has been arrested.

Translation: Ukrainian Vesti has found acquaintances of the "GRU agent" Panov. They said he is an ATO veteran, but was never at all connected with the special services [intelligence].

The FSB named only one person detained, Yevgeny Aleksandrovich Panov, born 1977, but provided no details.

According to Vesti, acquaintances of a man by the exact same name who lived in Energodar in Zaporozhgia said he was missing. He was said to be a pro-Ukrainian activist, a volunteer and a veteran of the ATO. His friends say he was an ardent Ukrainian patriot and went to the front because as a nuclear power plant worker he had "armor" from the army. When he came back from the front, he was involved in veterans' organizations and was in the Energodar self-defense group.

Yaroslav Derkach, deputy head of the Energodar veteran's organization said:

"Unfortunately, the information has been confirmed that he was arrested. But no one among us knew this -- neither his mother or wife. Only a week ago, he was at work. For us, it's a mystery how he ended up there, what the group of people was, what purpose they had -- we are asking each other questions."

He said Panov had not been able to be reached for three days. There was a story that he was going into a military hospital in Zaporozhia, which is why he was not in town.

Panov founded a local civic organization uniting local ATO soldiers and volunteers. He had served in the 37th Zaporozhia batallion, and was really involved in reconnaissance, said friends, but was only an ordinary soldier, "not a super spetsnaz," as a friend put it. He left the armed service in August 2015 and worked at the nuclear power plant as a bus driver.

Panov's account on VKontakte shows that someone logged in this morning. The page is said to be sparse, with only a few groups, including the ultranationalist Right Sector, and some patriotic videos.

 -- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Clues of a Border Incident in Crimea -- or FSB Staged Provocations and Disinformation?

The Russian government has accused Ukraine of conducting attacks against Russian soldiers and agents in Crimea, but it remains to be seen whether or not there really was a corresponding incident reported on the days in question.

Aric Toler of Atlantic Council's Digital Forensics Lab has published some of the signs and rumors of an impending clash in Crimea.

As Toler writes, some of the reports emerged after the FSB officially announced the "foiled terrorist attacks," saying that "20 people were seen in Armyansk" near the border between Russian-occupied Crimea and Ukraine on August 6, with weapons and explosives, wearing Russian military uniforms.

A pro-Russian "independent expert" claimed back on August 8 that Ukraine had killed three Russian soldiers in the area, Toler notes.

Curiously for such major sightings and a supposed armed clash, there were no other reports on all the standard social media platforms in the region like VKontakte, Odnoklassniki, nor on Twitter.

Toler cites an image of an unusual flyer claimed to be distributed by the Novokrymsky Rural Settlement Administration. The flyer says four persons dressed in green camouflage with diamond chevrons and the Russian flag are being sought in connection with a "serious crime". One of the suspects was a brunette, the other had dark hair, and all were said to be "of Slavic appearance." The implication was that they could be saboteurs.

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He also writes:

Over the following two days, a deluge of photographs and videos appeared online documenting the movement of other military vehicles, including the Bastion-P mobile coastal defense missile system, moving through Crimea towards Simferopol. 


Read more here:

RFE/RL's Crimean Service Krym.Realii reported on August 8 that local residents were reporting unusual activity by Russian military. A resident of Russian-occupied Sevastopol said checkpoints with the Berkut security police had been set up and documents were being checked but it seemed to be a show -- if someone didn't have their ID with them, they were let through the checkpoints anyway.



Как перебраться через админграницу с Крымом, и кого на полуострове ищут местные силовики

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Aug 10, 2016 22:38 (GMT)

Rumors were circulating about "a group of Ukrainian saboteurs," to the point where Vladislav Seleznev, a spokesman for the Ukrainian General Staff, made a statement of rebuttal, calling the stories "a provocation." He said Ukrainian troops were in their usual places of deployment.

Russian customs authorities announced that the Armyansk border crossing was closed, while Perekop and Dzhankoy were left open.

A Krym.Realii correspondent reported that people crossing the border into Crimea heard gunfire on the night of August 7 from the hours of 8-11 pm. They said Ukrainian border authorities then asked everyone waiting in line to cross to get back into their cars and turn off all lights. People said they saw several signal rockets in the sky. He emphasized that there were only rumors at that point, and that some people at the scene refused to talk.

Then a notice to Russian forces in Crimea began to circulate on social media. This notice, said to be signed by  Sergei Abisov, head of the Interior Ministry, said five (not four) armed men were being sought wearing Russian military uniforms in the area of Armyansk. But it was thought this notice could be part of exercises.

Mikhail Samus, a Ukrainian military expert, said that these signs appeared to be preparation to exercises titled "Caucasus 2016" which are to take place in the South Federal District in September. He said that offensive operations in the direction of Ukraine would be tested. "We know that now Russians are increasing military groups around our country, so they may attack at any moment," he said.

That was all back on August 8. Adding to the alarm were the sightings of Russian military convoys that same day:

Krym.Realii uploaded a video of the social media sightings of Russian convoys they had collected.

The Crimean Human Rights group uploaded a video they said was a Russian military convoy going through Kerch. The video was uploaded on August 7 at 11:33 UTC, but the title of the video suggests that it was filmed on August 6. The Russian government says that Ukrainian agents attempted to conduct a terrorist attack (on the night of August 6-7) so the timing of this video is important. 

A reverse-image search of frames from the video returns a post to the Russian social network Vkontakte (VK) on August 7, at 11:08 AM, with this description (translated by The Interpreter):

According to reports from eyewitnesses, on August 6 at the train station there was an entire train with military armor, depo.us reported, citing the Crimean Human Rights Group.

That same night a large column of Russian military vehicles passed through residential districts at the exit from the city.

The photo and video were made at the Kerch railroad station on August 6 in the evening and at the exit from Kerch.

Another video posted on Twitter also reported a convoy running through Kerch. Text on the video uploaded to YouTube said the convoy was "headed to the ferry" but there was no evidence that it was headed toward Dzhankoy, and the direction of the armor in the video is inland.

We geolocated the video from the signs on a green building passed by the armored vehicles and local information about ship repair facilities.




Керчь БТРы в сторону переправы день второй...

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Aug 10, 2016 22:44 (GMT)
The same location can be seen on Yandex street view here.
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This video says "Kerch BTRS Headed Toward Ferry."


This video is labelled "Russian Bastions Taken to Starokrymsky Training Range," Bastions meaning the Bastion-P costal defense missile system, a formidable weapons system designed to sink surface ships.

It shows a column of support, diggers, fuel, signals, and BTRs heading to a training range which is west of Feodosia.  

There does appear to be Bastion missiles in this video and radars in both these last two videos. This screen grab from the video can be compared to images of the Bastion P system posted to the Army Recognition website.

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What appears to be the radar truck for the Bastion P coastal missile system:

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This video posted on Twitter reportedly came from an area near the Kerch ferry, and showed MTLB's being ferried. 

A photo also showed armored vehicles at a train station with the sign "Kerch".



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It was not clear why Russia was amassing the military hardware if the purpose was invasion, as the armor would have to cross the Strait of Kerch and there are easier routes for such an attack. But we reasoned that it could be posturing or a decoy for an offensive elsewhere. Fighting has been heavier than usual in the Donbass.

Another troubling report came from a Sevastopol maritime news site, Meridian.

According to that report, the Russian military was taking submarines out of their berths in Sevastopol and blocking the channel. The local administration announced that regular passenger boat traffic was halted from 10:00 am to 13:00 on August 9 and military exercises were announced.

Later an official told journalists that not all the channel was closed, only the route from Artbukhta to Radiogorka. Meridian said they were unable to get any commentary from the military as to where the submarines were going or what their purpose was.

At a time like this when there are lots of alarming reports and numerous rumors amplified on social media, every action by the Russian military begins to loom up as a possible sign of an invasion of Ukraine.

A blogger wrote of the alarm of citizens in the naval town of Severomorsk which was covered for 3 days in smoke. 

RIA Novosti reported that these were military exercises to defend against chemical warfare.

So in conclusion, it appears that some incident occurred on the border, but the extent of it, whether it was an exercise or a battle, or whether it was staged or not, are not known. 

Now Kommersant is citing a military source that in addition to two soldiers being killed in the border clash, 10 soldiers were wounded. Kommersant noted that they could not obtain official confirmation of the WIA.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick, Pierre Vaux, James Miller

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Putin Likely to Pull Out of September Normandy Quartet Talks on Ukraine, Calling Them 'Pointless'
President Vladimir Putin has announced that the planned meeting of the "Normandy Quartet" which is supposed to take place in China  in early September "doesn't have any point" after the incident on the border between Ukraine and Russian-occupied Crimea, Novaya Gazeta reports, citing TASS.

Putin's statement has raised the possibility that he is likely to pull out of the talks on the war in Ukraine.



The "Normandy Quartet" is the group formed during the marking of the anniversary of the invasion of Normandy by the presidents of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine. The meeting was to take place on the margins of the Group of 20 summit on September 4-5 in Beijing.

Putin has vowed to take "additional serious measures to ensure security on the peninsula" and "Moscow will not leave without a response to the murder of its soldiers by saboteurs from Ukraine," reported TASS which quoted Putin as saying:

"Judging from everything, the people who seized power in Kiev and continue to hold on to it instead of a search for compromises, instead of searching for a means of a peaceful settlement, have moved to the practice of terror."
Putin called "stupid and criminal" the alleged border incursion by Ukrainian forces in which two Russian soldiers were killed, TASS reported.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick 


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